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8 Graves Main

8 Graves Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Grey Sheep Productions

8 graves poster large

Directed by Gus Smythe
Written by Nick Smith, Rodney Lee Rogers, and Gus Smythe
2020, 80 minutes, Not Rated
Released on May 5th, 2020

Jessica Slaughter as Sadie
Judit Fekete as Whitney
Jennifer Olympia Bentley as Kara
Valarie Kobrovsky as Ruth
Sims Holland as Alice
Andrea Catangay as Melissa
Braxton Williams as Mitch
Chris Maxey as Colin

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If there are two things I have a soft spot in my heart for, it’s low-budget horror and my home state of South Carolina. The two have a lot in common – both have a striking mix of stunning natural beauty and financial limitations (along with the accompanying wear and tear), both have a checkered history, and both are easily misunderstood. A real history, after all, comes with warts and imperfections. You have to look at the deeper story and take into account heart, intention, and effort.

8 Graves tells the story of six best friends having a “college reunion” at the historical, old (and very haunted) house of one’s late uncle. Sadie (Jessica Slaughter; One Tree Hill) is a new mother who needs a break from her awful husband to regain some sanity, and the place belongs to her. Sweet peacemaker Whitney (Judit Fekete; The Witcher); bitchy lawyer Melissa (newcomer Andrea Catangay); party girl Kara (Jennifer Olympia Bentley; Eastbound and Down); good-girl Ruth (former Miss South Carolina Valarie Kobrovsky); and spiritually touched Alice (Sims Holland; The Afflicted) are there for her, but none of them have any idea exactly how haunted the house and grounds are, nor can they fathom just how dangerous these spirits are. The home’s original owners lost both of their children in the Civil War before eventually losing their grip on reality and murdering each other with a hatchet. Their bloody end stained the land, and these former Gamecocks are about to find that out firsthand.

8 Graves is truly ultra-low budget horror, and you’ll see that from the first frame. It’s important to know that going in, because the limitations are glaring. What’s not ultra-low quality, however, is the cast. Virtually everyone involved, even the newcomers, handle the material well and provide a believable group of friends. The at time cringe-worthy partying, bitching, and female bonding feels natural. It doesn’t hurt that all the women involved are damn fine looking and fit the bill of former Gamecock cheerleaders. If only they’d have gotten some of those top-quality Clemson girls, but I digress… Also, you’ll want more of Mitch (Braxton Williams) and his high-sleaze, crotch-grabbing, innuendo-laden fun. He’s just over-the-top enough to give you that death to really pull for.

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Director Gus Smythe takes full advantage of the lush, moss-covered South Carolina location and a wonderful old house in historic Georgetown. Given the story and setup, the home and grounds need to be a character in and of itself, and 8 Graves certainly delivers in that regard. You know you’re watching a Southern horror story and would never mistake it for anywhere but the old South.

8 Graves takes its time getting to the actual horror, bordering on taking too long. None of the characters are so layered as to require that long of a setup. It’s not grievous, but the drag is noticeable in the first half. The film picks up quite a bit on the back end as the deaths start mounting. This is where the proverbial double-edged sword comes into play: While they find a way to give you deaths that work within the meager budget from a filmability standpoint, it also highlights the monetary limits. Like all ultra-low-budget horror, you have to be able to look past it or you’ll find 8 Graves to be a bit of a laughable slog.

That would be a shame, too. The VFX on the spirits induce an eye-roll or three and the Evil Dead-style ground camera trick is overused, but the creativity in the kills and how the spirits accomplish it speaks to clever writing that feels like a slasher homage. As is often the case with these kinds of movies, 8 Graves is the kind of film that makes you say, “Man, if they had a bigger budget…”

Sure, 8 Graves is as flawed and misunderstood as the history of where it takes place, but it’s also got a natural aesthetic and homegrown beauty that’s enjoyable if you look a little closer. There’s even a ballsy little surprise at the end that will make you smile and closes the film out with a dark Southern charm.

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Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer - USA
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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